Week 156: The Higher & Degree Apprenticeship landscape three years after ‘lockdown’

Latest reflections on the situation in England

It’s hardly a cause for celebration, but this Monday marks the third anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown when I made a fresh start to collecting data on degree and higher apprenticeships in England.

I had already been doing it to inform and illustrate my ‘Options at 18’ talks, but I was concerned at that time about how the pandemic would impact on provision and availability, and I thought it would be helpful to start building a comparison of the pre and post-lockdown periods. It also gave me a much-needed project to focus on during those dark days of 2020.

On 18th May 2020, eight weeks after that first lockdown, I published a blogpost based on my latest data which amounted to just 302 new DA and HA vacancies at an average of 38 per week. Since then I’ve been posting regular weekly updates and there has been a full recovery to the extent that my latest cumulative total is exactly 37,600 new vacancies at an average of 241 per week.   

What sustains me about the project is the weekly updated snapshot of the DA and HA landscape that it captures. As a means of informing my own work as a practitioner, it gives me a true overview of what’s actually out there. And as my old colleague Andy Gardner said to me last year, “your data doesn’t lie”. Whilst the various apprenticeship websites do a super job in different ways, it’s otherwise difficult to get a sense of the full spectrum of post-18 apprenticeship occupations and their volume and scale and I hope my cumulative data below helps to some extent to plug a gap and tell a story.     

Another recurring theme is the extent to which the emerging occupations probably don’t align very well with the perceptions and aspirations of a lot of potential applicants. Hence, despite there not being enough vacancies to meet demand, I also get the impression that some vacancies are hard to fill and I’ve highlighted this in the ‘Background’ section below.

Meanwhile, Week 156 was another positive one and yet again the South West showed up especially well, which keeps on being a source of surprise to me. Devon in particular was a hotspot and my featured image was taken in the Devon countryside from the top of a moving vintage tram.

Elsewhere another hotspot, and not for the first time, was Warrington in Cheshire which for its size is quite a prolific hub that frequently punches above its weight. I hope to do a little feature on Warrington sometime soon. Farnborough in North East Hampshire was prominent too, with several vacancies for Clinical Trials Specialists that include a degree in Applied Bioscience gained by studying remotely on a day-release basis.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland updates

Having also tracked vacancies in the three other home nations since 1st June 2022, my latest running totals are:

  • Scotland516 vacancies at SQF Levels 10/11
  • Wales78 vacancies at Levels 6/7 and 134 at Levels 4/5
  • Northern Ireland101 vacancies at Levels 4 to 7 

I will be publishing my next monthly reports on both Scotland and Wales in early-April. My Northern Ireland data is still too unreliable to report on at this stage, but I’m working on that too.


Since the first COVID ‘lockdown’ started on Monday 23rd March 2020, I’ve kept a record of new higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies posted in England and in doing so have built up an evolving occupational and regional analysis. I largely use data extracted daily from the government’s ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ website, whilst also keeping tabs on other national vacancy sources including NHS Jobs, Not Going to Uni, Rate My Apprenticeship, UCAS, Get My First Job, Investment 20/20, Amazing Apprenticeships, LawCareers.net and Civil Service Jobs.

My target audience is Level 3 school and college leavers and those who influence and advise them. Therefore, I only include vacancies at Levels 4 to 7 that ‘work-ready’ 18/19-year-olds seeking their first permanent role could reasonably apply for, whether at the point of leaving school/college or after a few months of temporary experience. If more than a year’s permanent experience is clearly required, I don’t normally include the vacancy in my figures.

I would emphasise the term ‘work-ready’ because academic qualifications alone will never be enough to compete successfully for a higher or degree apprenticeship. Whilst a UCAS points score of 112 is the most frequently quoted minimum entry requirement for DAs (sometimes more and quite often less), it’s otherwise much more about the skills, qualities and insights an applicant can bring.

My data will never be fully reliable because not all vacancies are advertised nationally in a way that also gives an indication of actual numbers and locations. However, the analyses that I’ve built up paint an intriguing picture of what’s out there in a changing post-18 career landscape. The figures also suggest that there’s something of a mismatch between supply and demand in terms of volume (there aren’t enough to go around), location (my regional breakdown raises questions about ‘levelling up’) and the range of occupations available (which probably doesn’t align too well with student aspirations, thereby ironically leaving some vacancies hard to fill).

One further and slightly confusing factor to take into account is that it’s quite normal for some 18/19-year-old school/college leavers to apply for Level 3 apprenticeships too. It’s also true that a significant proportion of opportunities at Levels 4 to 7 will be snapped up by older applicants or even graduates and therefore work-readiness really matters to enable 18/19-year-olds to compete successfully.

Headline data

In England during the latest period from 13th to 19th March 2023 I recorded:

  • 134 new Degree & L7 Apprenticeship vacancies and
  • 141 new Higher Apprenticeship vacancies
  • giving a total of 275 for the week

In the 156 weeks since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown (23rd March 2020 to 19th March 2023) I’ve now recorded:

  • 19,968 new Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7) and
  • 17,632 new Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5)
  • giving a total of 37,600

The average weekly totals in the 156 weeks since lockdown have been:

  • 128 DAs + 113 HAs = 241 average weekly total

Updated analysis by county and region

By county (loosely defined), the 37,600 higher and degree apprenticeships advertised in England since the start of lockdown have been distributed as follows:

  • Greater London (9,412)
  • Yorkshire (3,213)
  • West Midlands (2,351)
  • Greater Manchester (2,066)
  • Bristol & Gloucestershire (1,636)
  • Hampshire (1,301)
  • Berkshire (1,176)
  • Hertfordshire (913)
  • Surrey (878)
  • Cheshire (769)
  • Derbyshire (737)
  • Nottinghamshire (730)
  • Tyne & Wear (729)
  • Sussex (696)
  • Cambridgeshire (656)
  • Merseyside (654)
  • Essex (629)
  • Lancashire (550)
  • Warwickshire (541)
  • Devon (540)
  • Suffolk (508)
  • Wiltshire (504)
  • Somerset & South Bristol (504)
  • Buckinghamshire (493)
  • Kent (492)
  • Cumbria (446)
  • Staffordshire (441)
  • Dorset (439)
  • Leicestershire (411)
  • Oxfordshire (406)
  • Bedfordshire (398)
  • County Durham (392)
  • Northamptonshire (329)
  • Norfolk (303)
  • Cornwall (285)
  • Worcestershire (276)
  • Lincolnshire (247)
  • Shropshire (234)
  • Isle of Wight (54)
  • Northumberland (49)
  • Herefordshire (39)
  • Rutland (13)
  • Remote-working with no central base (45)
  • Not specified (115) 

Regional data: The table below shows how those stats add up regionally in the context of the local 15 to 24-year-old population. The population figures have been extracted from the latest ONS census data published in June 2022 and my analysis provides the following information:

  • First number in bold = the latest cumulative number of vacancies for each region
  • Big number in brackets = the resident population of 15 to 24-year-olds in the region using the latest ONS data rounded to the nearest 100
  • Third figure in bold indexes my apprenticeship figures against the 15 to 24-year-old population. The ‘index’ shows the combined number of DAs and HAs since March 2020 per 1,000 of that population and the regions are then ‘ranked’ accordingly:
  •   9,412   London (1,078,600: 8.73)
  •   3,927   South West (645,800: 6.08)
  •   3,881   West Midlands (720,900: 5.38)  
  •   5,462   South East (1,040,500: 5.25)
  •   4,482   North West (884,600: 5.07)
  •   3,422   East of England (685,300: 4.99)
  •   3,228   Yorkshire & Humber (670,800: 4.81)
  •   2,408   East Midlands (593,700: 4.06)
  •   1,218   North East (313,000: 3.89)
  •      160   Remote-working/Not specified
  • 37,600   Total England (6,633,200: 5.67)

Whilst my data is always going to have flaws in it, the above comparisons nonetheless seem to raise continuing questions about ‘levelling up’. There are hints of a lack of balance between north and south and especially a distinct London-centric element. It was my curiosity about this that first prompted me to start collating regional as well as occupational data. The South West being so well-placed is perhaps surprising and Bristol takes much of the credit for that. There are also prominent hubs around Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.    

Updated occupational analysis

Each week I update my occupational analysis by breaking down the new vacancies into what I loosely define as ‘occupational areas’, which in some cases differ from the official apprenticeship standards terminology. Since the start of lockdown in March 2020, the complete lists of occupational areas represented in each category are given below.

Degree Apprenticeships (Levels 6/7):

In total there have been 19,968 new vacancies spread across 103 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,590 to £35,150pa, with the average being somewhere in the middle (around £19K). The occupational breakdown is as follows:

3,205 Police Constables 

2,312 Accountancy/Tax/Audit Professionals

1,808 Digital Technology Solutions (general) *see below for details

1,078 Chartered Business Managers

1,041 Software Engineers/Developers

  833 Civil Engineers

  705 Chartered Quantity Surveyors 

  634 Data Scientists/Analysts/Engineers

  624 Project Managers

  597 Nurses (485 Adult, 86 Mental Health, 20 Learning Disability, 6 Child) 

  445 Chartered Building/Property/Valuation Surveyors  

  437 Electrical/Electronic Engineers

  425 Design & Development Engineers

  379 Nuclear Engineers  

  335 Supply Chain Leaders

  290 Cyber Security Professionals

  275 Food & Drink Technologists / Production Managers

  268 Manufacturing Engineers

  256 Banking & Financial Services Professionals

  239 Building Services Engineers 

  238 Digital Marketing Professionals

  237 Solicitors 

  219 Sales Professionals

  199 Professional Economists

  193 Laboratory Scientists

  179 Aerospace Engineers

  163 Environmental Practitioners

  153 Retail Leaders

  146 Construction Managers

  130 Network Engineers

  113 Healthcare Science Practitioners (17 Cardiac Physiology, 13 Biomedical Science, 12 Medical Engineering, 12 Nuclear Medicine, 10 Neurophysiology, 10 Radiation & Radiotherapy Physics, 10 Respiratory Physiology & Sleep Science, 9 Audiology, 8 Radiation & Radiotherapy Engineering, 5 Digital Healthcare Science, 3 Bioinformatics, 2 Medical Physics Technology, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering, 1 Renal Specialist) 

  101 Operating Department Practitioners (NHS)

    98 Railway/Rail Systems Engineers

    93 Automation & Control Engineers   

    93 Electro-Mechanical/Mechatronics Engineers

    82 Digital User Experience (UX) Design Professionals   

    80 Project Controls Professionals

    71 Radiographers (42 Diagnostic, 29 Therapeutic)   

    66 Non-Destructive Testing Engineers

    63 Occupational Therapists

    61 Materials Science Technologists/Engineers     

    51 Building Control Surveyors

    49 Creative Digital Design Professionals

    49 Podiatrists

    45 Clinical Trials Specialists

    43 Broadcast/Communication/Media Systems Engineers

    43 Town Planners

    40 Manufacturing/Production Managers (non-food)

    40 Packaging Professionals 

    39 Chemical Engineers     

    36 Social Workers 

    35 Design & Construction Professionals

    34 Business Analysts  

    34 Weapons Munitions & Explosives Engineers

    33 Human Resources Professionals  

    32 Chartered Rural Surveyors / Land Agents

    32 Recruitment Professionals

    32 Transport Planners    

    27 Environmental Health Officers

    23 Architectural Assistants

    22 GIS / Geospatial Mapping & Surveying Professionals

    22 Marketing/Brand Managers

    18 Geotechnical Engineers

    18 Journalists

    18 Public Health Practitioners

    17 Physiotherapists

    15 Fire Safety Engineers

    15 Forestry Professionals

    12 Insurance Professionals

    11 Midwives      

    10 Dietitians

      9 Business Managers (Social Change)

      9 Propulsion Engineers

      8 Agricultural/Horticultural Advisers

      8 Gas Transmission Engineers

      7 Land Buyers

      6 Actuarial Professionals

      6 Sport Development Officers

      5 Chartered Legal Executives   

      5 Operations Analysts

      5 Speech & Language Therapists

      4 Assistant Buyers

      4 Assistant Teachers / Learning Coaches

      3 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Specialists

      3 Digital Transformation Engineers

      3 Education Technology Specialists

      3 Fitness/Leisure Centre Managers

      3 TV Production Managers

      2 Licensed Conveyancers

      2 Pensions Professionals

      2 Tax Technologists

      1 Charity Manager

      1 Community Centre Manager

      1 Events Manager

      1 Facilities Manager

      1 Games Programmer

      1 Human Performance Engineer 

      1 Lighting Designer

      1 Marine Engineer

      1 Population Health Intelligence Analyst

      1 Prosthetist & Orthotist

      1 Sonographer 

      1 Youth Worker    

*Digital Technology Solutions (general) has encompassed the following range of specialisms:   

IT Consultant, Software Engineer, Data Analyst, Cyber Security Specialist, Software Developer, Software Tester, Network Engineer, Data Scientist, Global Data Analyst, Data Product Specialist, Data Architect, Network Architect, Enterprise Architect, Digital Solutions Architect, Technology Architect, Solutions Consultant, Software Implementation Consultant, Software Consultant, Technical Consultant, Functional Consultant, Business Consultant, Project Manager, Project Co-ordinator, Business Intelligence (BI) Developer, Business Systems Engineer/Developer, Automation Developer, Automation Test Developer, Full Stack Developer, Digital Developer, Prototype Developer, Technology Manager, Legal Technologist, Innovation Technologist, Innovation Design Analyst, Agile Analyst, Applications Support Analyst, Technical Support Analyst, Business Analyst, Business Technology Analyst, Network Strategy Analyst, Global Mobility Analyst, Content Analyst, Security Operations Analyst, Process Mining Analyst, SAP Analyst, User Experience Researcher, Junior Product Manager, Infrastructure Specialist, FinTech Specialist, DevOps Engineer, Solutions Engineer, Digital Solutions Engineer, Systems Engineer, Automation Engineer, IT Support Engineer, Service Desk Engineer, Cloud Engineer, Quality Assurance Engineer, Sales Engineer, Sales Account Manager, Sales Operations Manager, Scientific Computing Specialist, Platform Manager, Service Manager, Engineering Information Manager, Information Management Technology Specialist, Control Systems Specialist, Amazon Web Services Specialist, Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition Specialist, Fixed Telecoms Specialist, Operations Support Analyst, Support Desk Analyst, IT Support Analyst, IT Service Desk Analyst, IT/Computing Technician, Second Line Support Technician, WordPress Developer, Public Health Intelligence Officer, Technology Operations & Service Delivery Specialist, Digital Manufacturing Engineer, Electronic Systems Design & Development Engineer, Solution Engineering & Development Specialist, Client Delivery Specialist, Client Success Specialist, Client Consultant, Operations Resilience & Change Specialist, Microsoft 365 Product Specialist, Innovation Foundry Specialist and Continuous Improvement & Automation Specialist.

That’s some list (currently 89).

Higher Apprenticeships (Levels 4/5):

In total there have been 17,632 new vacancies spread across 144 occupational areas and minimum starting salaries have ranged from £5,002 to £35,000pa (the average being around £17K). The occupational breakdown is as follows: 

1,629 Sales Executives

1,232 Data Analysts

1,230 Software Developers 

1,177 Project Management Associates

1,155 Accounting Technicians

  887 School/Community Sports Coaches    

  555 Construction Site Supervisors

  479 Nursing Associates

  464 Business Analysts  

  461 Manufacturing Engineering Technicians 

  407 Network Engineers

  382 Quantity Surveying Technicians  

  367 Taxation Technicians

  342 Cyber Security Technologists

  339 Software Testers

  324 Commercial Procurement & Supply Practitioners

  278 Public Relations & Communications Assistants

  276 Civil/Site Engineering Technicians

  266 Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians

  254 Building Services Engineering Technicians

  250 Retail Managers

  248 Buying & Merchandising Assistants

  225 Children/Youth/Family Practitioners

  222 Healthcare Associate Practitioners (150 Reablement, 59 Multidisciplinary, 5 Mammography, 5 Speech Therapy, 2 Continuing Healthcare, 1 Occupational Therapy)

  201 Insurance Practitioners  

  190 Marketing Executives

  190 Technician Scientists

  185 DevOps Engineers

  185 Investment Operations Specialists

  177 Policy Practitioners

  155 Early Years Lead Practitioners

  148 Construction Design & Build Technicians

  148 Junior Management Consultants

  144 Associate Ambulance Practitioners

  143 Regulatory Compliance Officers

  114 Mineral Products Technicians 

  113 Human Resources Specialists     

  107 Healthcare Science Associates (32 Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers, 27 Medical Engineering Technicians, 22 Cardiac & Respiratory/Sleep Physiology, 9 Radiography, 6 Genetics, 3 Tissue Retrieval, 2 Medical Physics, 2 Phlebotomy, 1 Biochemistry, 1 Biomedicine, 1 Neurophysiology, 1 Rehabilitation Engineering)  

  101 Quality Practitioners

    95 Food Technology/Manufacturing Technicians 

    91 Nuclear Technicians  

    89 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Practitioners  

    87 Hospitality Managers

    77 Automotive Engineering/Propulsion Technicians

    72 Recruitment Consultants

    66 Internal Audit Practitioners

    62 Actuarial Technicians

    62 Financial Paraplanners   

    55 Vehicle Damage Assessors     

    52 Adult Social Care Lead Practitioners       

    51 Brewers 

    49 Intelligence Analysts

    48 Journalists

    43 Dairy Technologists

    43 Revenue & Welfare Benefits Officers    

    42 Railway Engineering Technicians

    41 Operations Managers   

    40 Automation & Controls Engineers

    37 TV/Media Production Co-ordinators

    34 Business Improvement Practitioners 

    34 Learning/Skills & Development Practitioners

    29 Information Managers    

    29 Ordnance Munitions & Explosives Technicians

    28 Housing/Property/Lettings Managers

    27 Market Research Executives

    24 Engineer Surveyors

    24 Police Community Support Officers

    23 Estate Agency Negotiators

    20 Audiovisual Technicians

    20 Paralegals

    19 Acoustics Technicians

    18 Applications Support Leads

    18 Countryside Rangers

    15 BEMS Controls Engineers (Building Energy Management Systems)

    15 Fibre Cable Engineers

    15 Land Referencers      

    15 Smart Energy Engineers

    12 Broadcast & Media Systems Technicians

    12 Digital Community Managers

    11 Film/TV Post-Production Technical Operators

    11 Hygiene Specialists

    10 Air Traffic Controllers

    10 Employability Practitioners

    10 Football Coaches

      9 Engineering Maintenance Technicians

      9 Naval Architects / Marine Engineering Technicians

      9 Railway/Passenger Transport Operations Managers

      7 Computer Games Developers

      7 Counter Fraud Investigators    

      7 Facilities Managers

      6 Antisocial Behaviour & Community Safety Officers

      6 Dental Technicians

      6 Digital Accessibility Specialists

      6 Fire Safety Inspectors

      6 Rehabilitation Officers (Visual Impairment) 

      6 School Business Professionals     

      6 Town Planning Technicians 

      5 Architectural Technicians

      5 Broadcasting Technical Operators

      5 Visual Merchandisers

      4 Aircraft Certifying Technicians

      4 Asset Managers

      4 Gymnastics/Trampoline Coaches & Rebound Therapists

      4 Space Engineering Technicians

      4 Unified Communications Trouble Shooters

      3 Data Protection Practitioners     

      3 Early Intervention Practitioners

      3 Fashion & Textiles Technologists

      3 Historic Site Advisers

      3 Music Teachers

      3 Padel Coaches

      3 Pensions Administrators

      3 Port Marine Operations Officers

      3 Senior Culinary Chefs

      3 Sports Development Officers   

      3 Utilities Technicians

      2 Arboriculturists      

      2 Auctioneers

      2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) Technicians

      2 Chaplains

      2 Energy Specialists

      2 Music Recording Technicians

      2 Payroll Assistant Managers

      2 Tax Technology Technicians

      2 Travel Executives

      2 VFX Artists

      2 Water Recycling Engineers

      1 Chemical Process Technician

      1 Clinical Coder

      1 Cricket Coach

      1 Cultural Heritage Conservation Technician

      1 Customs & Foreign Exchange Expert

      1 Fitness Club Manager

      1 Fitness Instructor

      1 Health Informatics Specialist

      1 Horticultural / Landscape Design Practitioner

      1 Lighting Designer

      1 Metrology Technician

      1 Outdoor Learning Specialist

      1 Process Leader

      1 Proposals Co-ordinator

      1 Tennis Coach

      1 Wedding Accessories Designer

      1 Wedding Venue Co-ordinator

Going forward

All being well I will continue posting weekly updates, usually on Sunday nights or Monday mornings.

© Alan Bullock Careers, 19/3/2023


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